BALIPITHA

neelanjana samaabhaasam raviputram yamaagrajam chaayaa martaandassmbhootam tamnamani shaneiswaram

"I salute Shani, the son of Surya, the elder brother of Yama born of Shadow and the Sun, and resplendent as collyrium [From the Nava Graha Stotra of Vedavyasa].

SATURN TRANSITS

Sri Dharbaraneswara Swamy Devasthanam, Thirunallar is to be performed Sanipeyarchi festival on 26/09/2009. "Sri Saneeswara Baghavan (SATURN) transits from Simha Rasi (LEO) to Kanniya Rasi (VIRGO) on 26/09/2009 (Saturday) at 03:27 P.M. (Evening)."

The following is a reproduction of the artice contribution by the author to the Indian Express Madras, in commemoration of the transit of Lord Saturn which took place on Monday the 18th August 1975 at 11,13 p.m.

In the Solar system Saturn is the biggest planet and is only next to Jupiter in magnitude. It is 886 million miles distant from the Sun and its diameter is 71,500 miles. It takes 29.46 years to complete one orbit around the sun, progressing through the 12 signs of the zodiac in this duration. And it is breath-taking to realize that the earth's diameter is 7918 miles and is about 1/10 of the size of the giant planet. Its density is just 1/8 of that of the earth. And its one unique feature is that three rings of dense planets, It has eight satellites and two more have been added to this number by subsequent researches. It rotates on its axis in about 10-15 hours. It is identified with the ancient italion god of agriculture and animal husbandry.

The science of astrology credits the planet "with producing cold. sluggish and gloomy temperament in those born under its influence". Besides it is said to give bountiful prosperity or the opposite of it compounded with plenty of misery and sorrow to al those who come under its influence.

Even though seepties may not accept it astrologically it is an accepted fact that all the nine planets influence the humans in their day to day life from birth to death, by conferring on them penury or prosperity, intelligence or stupidity, happiness or sorrow health or sickness. longevity or untimely death in proportion to the merits or sins earned by them in their previous births.

The kings of old had in their courts astrologers to advise them in their day-to-day activities.

Sages like Varaha Mihira and Jaimini appear to have been progenitors of the science of astrologn in India. This science is also said to have been practised in ancient Babyion known as the Chaldea system of astrology. The west today has developed astrology perhaps drawing inspiration from the Indian and the Chaldean systems. And the fact that astrological redings or prediotions are popular features in most of the current day periodicals is indicative of the measure of its hold on the classes and the masses. A branch of this science developed as mundane astrology prediots wars, famines, foods, deluges. Pestilenes the rise and fall of an country and its political changes and vicissitudes, and so on. It may be recalled in this context that the moon's phasls affect the ocean tides.

And hence it is not without significiance that in all the Shiva shrines in South India there is a Nava Graha [9 planets] corner with the sun at the centre and the other eight planets crowding around him facing in different directions. The devoters do not fail to visit this part of the shrine for circumambularion and worship to earn benefits and absolution from sins.

At Suryanar Koil [Thanjavur District] there is a separate temple for the Sun similar to the one at Konark in Orissa. And at Tirunallar [a commune of Kariakal, Pondicherry State] in a niche in the main shrine of Sri Darbharanyeswara it housed the stone image of Saturn around the prakara.

Saturn is a malefic planet and he is generally feared must for evil propensities. This plant takes roughly 2.6 years to transit from one zodiacal sign to another and takes 30 years apportunately for him to complete his full round taking in his strides all the 12 zodiacal signs in this buration. And on account of the long time taken by him for completing one round he is nicknamed Mandan [dullard] Pangu [the name planet] and so on.

In his rounds when he posits in the house in the horoscope of a native immediately dnterior to the one occupied by the moon, the native is said to commence his 7.5 years period of Shani Dasa [Sade Sathi], in other words 7.5 years dasa period is reckoned by Saturn's transit through the house anterior to the oue occupied by the moon in on hornscobe, and then the house in which he is posited and the one next to it there after, to eross all of which, at the rate of 2,5 years for each, the total period taken is 7.5 years.

On account of his possessing supreme powers for producing misery and unhappiness his transits from one house to another is looked upon with great signifieance. And in the Shiva tempes al over South India the devotees do poojas, archanas and invoke other forms of pacificatory tituals to mondify his as best as they can.

And the day of transit known as the Shanipeyarchi is very important to the devotees of Saturn who in their thousands will throng at Tirunallar to workship him, as the deity in this shrine is said to be wearing a benign aspect and hence can be looked forward to bless them and redeem them of their sins.

About 300 kilometers South of Madras, near Karaikal in Pondicherry State, is situated the famous and unique temple of Darbharayeswara enshrining Saturn in the Prakara of the temple in a niche and for the benefit of the devotees a separate entrance is provided for easy acces to him. Saturn is generally found only in the Navagraha cluster or gallery in all South Indian Temples and it is rare and unusual to find him alone separated from the company of the other planets.

The three great Tevaram hymnists, Sambandar, Appar [7th century] and Sundarar [9th century] have visited the temple of Sri Darbharanyeswara and sung padigams in praise of the Lord King Nala of Nishadha country who was afficted severely by Shaniswara to the extend of his losing his kingdom and physical elegance and suffering separation from his wife and children besides the humilill of having to serve as a charioteer to the King of Ayodhya is said to have redeemed himself from the grips of Saturn the moment he entered the Darbharanyeswara shrine and Saturn did not pursue him inside the shrine but remained outside. Nala thereafter offered workship to Sri Narayana and this derity is today associated with Nala's name and is knwon as Nala Narayana Perumal.

The name Tirunallar comprises two syllables Nal or Nala+Aru apparently pointing to the association of Nala with this sacred place, whose other names are Darbharanyam, Nagavidangapuram, Naleswaram and so on.

And according to the Sthalapuranam there were once 13 sacred tanks here of which only five exist today. The principal one among them is Nala Tirtha which is situated on the northwestern side of the main temple. A dip in the sacred waters of this tank absolves one of all his sins and diseases and he is blessed with abundant virtues.

Since the three Nayanmars had visited it at sung padigams the temple should have been famous and popular even anterior to the time of Tirugnana Sambandar [7th Century]. On the north wall of the mandapa in front of the Darbharanyeswara shrine there is a incomplete. Tami inscription ascribed to Rajakesarivarman alias Rajakesarivarman Tirubhuvan Chakravarthi Rajathi Raja II, which is dated to the 11th reginal year [1173 A.D.] of this Chola King. And in the same wall there is another Tamil inscription [incomplete] of the Chola King Tirubhuvan Chakravarthi Kulothunga Chola Deva III the conqueror of Madurai, datable to the last quarter of the 12th Century A.D. in the year 1195.